The uptick of quality continues this weekend with quite a few anticipated releases and even some possible Oscar contenders.
First is the not-at-all-desired remake (but I suppose they rarely are) of Dudley Moore’s 1981 comedy Arthur, this time starring Russell Brand as the eponymous drunken playboy and Helen Mirren in the gender switched role of Hobson, the character that won theater legend John Gielgud his only Oscar. Personally, I’m repelled by films that try to make me feel sorry for the trials and tribulations of obscenely wealthy white men chased by women that look like Jennifer Garner…and critics don’t seem to be much kinder. Still, it’s opening on more screens than any other new release and appeals to the widest demographic, which will probably turn out an $18-20 million opening.
More intriguing – to me at least – is somewhat underrated director Joe Wright’s thriller Hanna, starring Saoirse Ronan as a young girl trained as an assassin by her father. Not the most original premise, I know, but the presentation looks unique, and critics are praising Wright’s stylish execution and Ronan’s performance. Such an offbeat film is going to be a tough sell to mainstream audiences, but it’s easily the strongest-reviewed new wide release and those looking for a solid actioner will probably propel it to a respectable $12-14 mil weekend. Academy Award prospects are somewhat slim, but I wouldn’t count out technical nods or even some whispers of Best Actress for its preternaturally talented star.
There’s been a lucrative market for Christian-themed inspirational dramas in recent years, and while they’ve been attracting a niche audience at best, one should never count out a film that lifts hearts and jerks tears. Case in point is Soul Surfer, about surfer Bethany Hamilton who at age 13 lost her arm in a shark attack. The problem with most uplifting Christian films is their seeming inability to convey their ideas with any sort of subtlety; critics complain that this story quickly reduces itself to heavy-handed platitudes. But as we all know, those secular socialist critics can’t appreciate good morals in cinema! REAL American families will love it just like they loved The Blind Side! …Ahem…anyway, I’m thinking a solid $10 million opening.
Finally, there’s a film that a baffling number of people on the internet seem to be excited about. David Gordon Green’s fantasy-comedy Your Highness stars Danny McBride and James Franco on a quest to save a damsel in distress kidnapped by an evil warlock. Fanboys actually appear to find the trailer funny, or maybe they’re just drumming up enthusiasm at the prospect of seeing Natalie Portman in a thong. Nevertheless, poor reviews and the limited appeal of its subject matter almost guarantee this film will be a box office dud. I’ll be surprised if the thing ends up with a double-digit weekend take.
There’s really only one noteworthy film in limited release this week, but luckily that would be Meek’s Cutoff from Kelly Reichardt. The arthouse western – about three families lost on the harsh Oregon Trail – has been building some serious passion on the film festival circuit, and most critics describe it as a slow-moving but eerie and inventive frontier fable. Whether or not the strong notices will translate to any Oscar momentum remains to be seen, but Michelle Williams is on a hot streak so far and it’s very possible that this will become a bit of a critical darling by the end of the year.
Look for reviews of all of these new releases right here on The Awards Circuit!